36 people were reported dead in the stampede that ensued at a railway station last night in India when thousands of pilgrims of Kumbh Mela 2013 rushed to board a train.
Dozens more were reported injured due to the crush of people who descended on platform six of Allahabad railway station to board the train bound to Patna, Bihar.
Sunday saw around 30 million people converge in Allahabad for the Kumbh Mela 2013, one of the biggest Hindu festivals in India that takes place every 12 years.
Following the tragic end to one of the most auspicious days in the 55-day festival, a government inquiry was launched to investigate the cause of stampede and the allegations of poor disaster management.
According to AFP, relatives recounted that the emergency services took hours to reach the scene. At least ten corpses wrapped in white sheets, could be seen on a platform several hours later.
Among the victims was an eight-year-old girl called Muskaan whose distraught parents said she had died while waiting nearly two hours for help, according to AFP.
“Our daughter still had a pulse. Had the doctors reached in time she would have been saved, but she died before our eyes,” Bedi Lal, the child’s father, told the NDTV news channel.
Mohammad Azam Khan, head of Kumbh Mela committee and a Cabinet Minister in Uttar Pradesh government, resigned on Monday morning citing “moral responsibility.”
“I have resigned as the chairman of the festival committee,” said Mohammad Azam Khan, who is also a cabinet minister in the state.
“Although the stampede happened beyond the scope of my jurisdiction, I am deeply disturbed and step down on moral grounds,” he told AFP.
The Kumbh Mela this year has been termed Maha Kumbh Mela due to rare planetary alignment seen after 147 years, making it all the more special for Hindus.
The disaster began when the joints on the iron railings on a foot bridge gave way under the pressure of the people. According to AFP, Railways Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal attributed the accident to the sheer weight of numbers.
“The foot bridge was supposed to have a capacity of 600, where as 4000 were present on it at one time,” said Dr Ashok Kumar Sharma, in charge of media center at Kumbh Mela.
Also, the platform had a capacity of only 27,000, while 100,000 were present when the train arrived, according to Dr Sharma.
“There have been difficulties because a lot of people arrived over many days but tried to leave on one day,” Bansal told reporters in the city.
Around 30,000 volunteers and 7,000 police were on duty at the mela on Sunday, who were urging pilgrims to take a small bath and then leave the waters to make space for the humanity that stretched for miles, according to the AFP.
While the government had prepared for every contingency by building temporary infrastructure throughout the city to accommodate the expected masses of people, the infrastructure at the railway station sorely lacked the provisions to meet the demands of the millions of people.
The disaster, though was an accident, its escalation can be attributed to three reasons, according to Dr Sharma. “Lack of temporary infrastructure by the railways at the stations, failure of crowd management systems and disaster management systems,” said Dr Sharma.
“It is a very sad day for all of us. We all grieve the loss of every human life,” said Dr Sharma.